Bob Owen

Friday, January 31, 2003

It's my blog anniversary. I started one year ago today.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

We don't need no stinkin' facts.

(Star Tribune, Jan. 30) "It's also obvious that our young people are going to be in harm's way, and a disproportionate number of those are going to be people of color. A third of the population of Minneapolis is people of color. A war will have an effect on the social fabric of this city."
Minneapolis City Council Member Paul Zerby in an interview with columnist Doug Grow. Zerby wants the Minneapolis City Council to pass an anti-war resolution.
(USA Today, Jan. 21) But a close examination of Pentagon statistics suggests that at least some of the conventional wisdom about who is most at risk during wartime is misleading. For example, although blacks account for 26% of Army troops, they make up a much smaller percentage of those in front-line combat units, the most likely to be killed or injured in a conventional war.
Article in USA Today examining a racial divide in the military.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Man takes picture. Security guard (not a soldier, not a cop) asks for film.

(Star Tribune) Mike Marty was driving back to Wisconsin last Sunday, around noon, when the billowing steam from the Flint Hills refinery in Rosemount caught his artistic eye.

He pulled off Hwy. 52 and began taking pictures -- two with a pocket camera, one with a single-lens reflex camera -- and drove away.

Or tried.

A few minutes later, he had surrendered the roll of pictures from his single-lens reflex camera -- apparently in the name of national security. He wondered Tuesday night if he had complied too willingly with a security guard's request to hand over the film or, as the guard threatened, risk a call from the FBI.

"I've regretted it," said Marty, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "I felt my rights were [violated], that I didn't live in a free country."

[Refinery spokesman John] Hofland said other people with cameras have voluntarily turned over their film to refinery personnel. He said he didn't know if anyone had refused, although "it wouldn't surprise me."

However, Marty said he felt "coerced" into doing it, even though the guard, reading from a printed form, called it "voluntary."
The story doesn't mention it but the interview was conducted through the door of a a cell in the basement of a prison where Marty was being held in solitary confinement. There was no immediate word on where the rest of his family was being held.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Do they even read the letters to see if they make sense before they print them? In the Minneapolis Star Tribune today:

So here we are: a massive troop buildup with no smoking aluminum canisters, no evidence and nothing but the same rhetoric from Washington. George W. Bush now has a decision.

Does he invade without the support of Canada, France, Germany and 60 to 70 percent of American citizens? If there is no invasion, Bush will lose face if he withdraws without regime change. If he maintains the troop buildup, the American people will tire of paying for it by election time.

No thinking American wants war, but the majority will support our president if he can make a case. If a valid case can be made, why hasn't he? Not one American or innocent Iraqi life is worth maintaining Bush's poll numbers.
So, 60-70 percent of American don't support this cause and no "thinking" American wants war. If this is just a ploy for positive polling results, does that mean only the unthinking vote?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A great sentence in WSJ Opinion Journal today:

[French President Jacques] Chirac also said: "As far as we're concerned, war always means failure." CNN doesn't say what language he was speaking when he said this, but if it was French and not German, the statement refutes itself.

A great big Homer Simpson "Doh!" An insightful writer sends this solution to the Gulf War I and the Minneapolis Star Tribune actually prints it:

The last war we had with Iraq could have been won easily with truckloads of peanut butter sandwiches. Those people over there are starving.

Since our government has been paying farmers not to grow crops, and to dump their milk, would it not make more sense to trade food for oil, rather than spend billions of dollars, and risk the lives of our American servicemen and women?
Skippy, Jif and Wonder Bread. If the B-52s had just dropped these instead of MK82s the war would have been much less lethal to the Republican Guard. And a lot less noisy.

Of course, the European Left would be complaining that we didn't include toothbrushes, toothpase and dental floss. Once again showing the world just how evil Americans are.

Monday, January 20, 2003

The environmentally friendly Segway transportation device is banned in the Peoples' Republic of San Francisco.

(CNN) In hilly San Francisco, officials feared the battery-powered Segways would cause more problems than they would solve, particularly for the disabled and senior citizens.

"There were statistics submitted to us about injuries, and the Segways themselves did not have adequate safety features to alert people they might be behind them," said Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco supervisor who supported the ban.

Segway officials say the scooters have been tested for 100,000 hours on city streets across the nation without injury.
Pedestrian safety? Hardly. Here's why:
The upright device -- controlled by body movements with the help of tiny computers and balance-controlling gyroscopes -- has been tested across the country by postal workers, police officers and meter readers. They're on sale to the public at for $4,950 each and will begin shipping in March.
The homeless won't be able to afford them. And if bums can't Segway, no one should.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Tim Blair, again:

JUAN GATO says Senator Paul Wellstone (D – Heaven) may reach full Mumia status by year's end.

Yep, it really is about being "against war."

A report from the anti-war protests yesterday in San Francisco:

It was an interesting day, actually seeing these people in action. One of the city supervisors, Tom Ammiano, got up on the loudspeaker to speak. He gave the usual platitudes about the demonstraters being patriots, then stated that San Francisco was undergoing a budget crunch, and requested that protesters not tip over any police cars. A strange thing to hear from an elected official. I suppose if San Francisco was flush with cash then tipping over a police car would be quite acceptable. Apparently there is nothing wrong with tipping over a police car, only with the city paying to fix it.

It was also quite interesting to note the public sentiment regarding the "lack of attention" the media is giving these protests. I'm sitting here in my living room with CNN Headline News on, and stories about the protests are in heavy rotation, at least once every 15 minutes. There were a number of news helicopters flying the length of the march, and hovering over the rally at City Hall.
It's no wonder these are the same folks who equate criticism with censorship.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Monday morning I'm calling the plumber. It will cost me about $108 including tax. I will gladly pay double that amount.

A short time ago I installed a new toilet. Brand spanking new. The old one was pea green and disgusting. I got a nice new white one. Being an able bodied man who owns his own house, is married and raising two children and generally isn't a complete klutz, I decided that I should install it myself. I've mastered that whole walking and chewing gum thing.

I've got friends and neighbors who do this stuff all the time. They can do it. We can all do it. We're men!

Hey, Ron, whatcha doing?

Oh, I'm just changing my brake pads.

Hi Don. what are you up to?

I am installing a new garbage disposal.

Vern, dog, what you doin' today?

Why Bob, I'm rewiring my garage. There wasn't a roll of duct tape or package of chewing gum in sight.

So how difficult is it to install a toilet? Not very. How difficult is it to install a toilet so it doesn't run in the middle of the night or drip? Apparently, for me, the answer is it's just too damn difficult.

I could hear a faint drip, drip, drip. Once or twice a night the water level got low enough so the toilet would run for a bit. Being an ecologically minded fellow I just hate to waste water. Plus, it costs me money. I'm sure over the course of a year it might fill kitchen sink. Or 78 swimming pools if you believe the citizens for a better earth (they're the same ones against war).

I bought a new flapper valve.

Still dripped.

I took apart the tank and reinstalled it.

Still dripped. I was getting irritated.

I went to the hardware store. The boys asked if they could just wait in the car. I don't blame them. I really don't. I bought a whole new tube, flapper, and all the other assorted Rube Goldberg parts that make up a toilet. I was hungry. The kids were hungry. But I must stop the drip. Must stop it!

So I worked and worked. Finally, I reconnected the water and DAMN -- WATER IS SPRAYING ALL OVER THE WALL! Oh, the washer was crooked. Whew, that's easy enough to fix. I turn the water back on. Ahhh. No spraying water.

Drip, drip, drip.

Poe's Telltale Heart best describes my mood:

No doubt I now grew VERY pale; but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased -- and what could I do? It was a low dull, quick sound -- much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! what could I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly , and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! -- no, no? They heard! -- they suspected! -- they knew! -- they were making a mockery of my horror! -- this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! --

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! -- here, here! -- it is the beating of his hideous heart!"
But this time, it's not dripping into the bowl, it's dripping all over the floor.

In the interest of not bringing down the entire Internet by writing down everything I did next, let's just say I tried to correct whatever mistake I had made. I tried, yes I did. And things just got worse. And wetter.

So, now the water to the toilet is turned off, parts are on the floor and I've instructed everyone to use the other toilet for the next two days. I've surrendered. Other than changing light bulbs I am totally done with home improvement for the next six months. And I might not even change a light bulb myself if it's more than 75 watts.

A letter to the editor of the Star Tribune. Sad to say, but around here it's just not clear whether this is sarcastic or sincere.

To all your readers who keep insisting Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction: The dozen chemical weapon warheads are also meaningless. They need to be found fully loaded on an airplane with its engines running and the pilot in possession of his instructions before we should become a little concerned. Then, we can always try to peacefully negotiate with Saddam Hussein and tell him the plane can fly around while we conduct our talks.

But, if those warheads are dropped and actually destroy several people, we may have to take some form of military action.

A Star Tribune reader weighs in with support of Jimmy Carter.

I'm not an expert on weaponry so I'll avoid taking on Jason Lewis' notion that an attack by North Korea is imminent and we are lucky our president is moving forward with a plan to develop ground-based interceptors so that the United States will be shielded from missile attack ("Arms control crowd, as usual, is dangerously wrong," Commentary, Jan. 3).

Plenty of experts on this subject have already weighed in and argued persuasively that the first proposition is highly unlikely and the second is only slightly more probable than it was when President Ronald Reagan proposed it more than 20 years ago.

Instead, I'd like to take issue with Lewis' characterization of former President Jimmy Carter.

Lewis is only one of a number of writers who have disparaged Carter.
A significant number of writers.
The way they identify him as the Nobel Peace Prize winner seems to suggest that either they believe that the former president doesn't deserve the honor or that the Nobel Peace Prize is an award all recipients should be ashamed to receive since it connotes that the winner is a "peacenik."

As to the first possibility, the award is, after all, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yes. And a skunk by any other name still stinks.
Carter received it in 2002 "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."
An A and a gold starfor effort. Unfortunately, results matter.
Clearly, the underlying principle here is that the recipient must be endeavoring to advance the causes of peace and justice not only for Americans but for all people.
Say, for example, Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasser Arafat.
But I'm guessing Lewis knows this and is not quibbling with the criteria or selection process.
It sure isn't fair of him to examine the process. After all, it is the “Nobel Peace Prize.”
I'm betting Lewis believes effective leaders do not seek Nobel prizes. They develop weapons and armies that are bigger and better than other countries' weapons and armies and demand compliance rather than broker peace.
So it’s better to go for the brass ring. Even when dealing with murderous dictators.
This is a strategy that has worked in the short term for the United States but over time has earned us nonconventional opponents.

How do we fight an invisible enemy who does not represent a particular geographic location or owe allegiance to a government, and who believes the greatest glory he can achieve is to parlay his hatred for our culture into martyrdom?
Google search: "Tora Bora" + "B-52" + "Al Qaeda" + "crippled"
The answer is not with better weapons or bigger armies.

We cannot shield ourselves from hatred and distrust, nor can we blow up negative perceptions.
Negative perceptions, no. Terrorist hideouts, yes. And coming soon, countries that support terrorism.
These intangibles are our true enemies and, like it or not, people who fight these enemies sometimes earn Nobel prizes.
So name one.

Friday, January 17, 2003

I would never use a cell phone in a library. A bookstore isn't a library.

The Barnes and Noble bookstore at the Galleria in Edina is very nice. There are plush chairs to read the books you don't want to buy. Music is piped in. There's a cafe in the basement.

It's a store. It's located in a mall. It's not a library. But apparently walls of books means "Shhhhhh."

That in mind, here are two things to avoid at the Galleria Barns and Noble: Making a brief, quiet phone call back in the corner where no other customers are and cooking hotdogs over an open campfire in the middle of the store. The first reason is obvious. The second may not be so obvious. It wouldn't be because of the chatter of folks standing around the open fire. No, it's because the fire might snap, crackle and pop and that might disturb the employees.

Let's get back to that phone call. It was me. Guilty. As I faced the corner and whispered into the phone, a clerk found me. I'm sure the radio signal from a cell-phone attracts her like my dog is attracted to the sound of a chattering squirrel. Must find! Must destroy! The clerk gave me the look. Sir! Sir! Those don't work here! I admit, the signal meter on the phone was in no danger of bursting out the top of the phone and pushing books off the shelf. But I could hear the person on the other end of the call. The clerk's admonishment was louder than my call. If phones don't work there, keep quiet and I'll find out soon enough.

There was just something in her eyes. It was like bringing Diet Coke and Velveeta to a wine and cheese party. How could someone appreciate all these books while holding a cell phone? Gasp!

Hey, if I go grocery shopping at Cub Foods and call my wife to see if she wanted bananas or apples, it doesn’t mean I can't appreciate a fine steak or a nice Caesar salad. And it certainly isn't going to impinge on the eating enjoyment of other customers. See, they're going to buy their food and take it home to eat. Just like you're supposed to buy your books and bring them home to read. Of course, if Cub Foods decides to install big comfy chairs and let me sample as much food as I want without paying I won't complain.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Would you spend $5000 of your own money if you knew it could prevent war in Iraq? You can! It's "scientifically proven."

(Minneapolis Star Tribune) In the "men's flying room" of the transcendental meditation center in south Minneapolis, [Jeff] Mason flew Wednesday for close to 20 minutes. Actually, he was pushing himself off the floor mat with his hands, bouncing up and then landing again.

The yogi's disciples demonstrated the flying technique and transcendental meditation as a way of publicly outlining their plans for world peace and a "peace palace" they hope to build someday in the Twin Cities.

They say their technique has been scientifically proved to be an effective way of creating world peace and preventing the need to go to war with Iraq, or any other country for that matter.
Who needs B-52s when you can bounce on a mat?
They don't want to pray just for peace. They want to create it, they say, and maintain that groups of people, say 200 in the Twin Cities, doing yogic flying would create a sense of well-being for the entire population and put Minnesota on the way to a more peace-filled life.

They have a drawing of what they hope their peace palace -- more specifically, a transcendental meditation center -- would look like. They offer classes now in their current residence at 3928 1st Av. S. The standard fee is $2,500; the longer course in yogic flying is $5,000.
My children have been jumping on the bed for years and I've never thought of it as peaceful.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Tim Blair knows how to interpret polls:

EIGHTY PER CENT of people responding to this Time Europe online poll think that the US is a greater threat to world peace than Iraq or North Korea. This may in part be due to the shortage of live Kurds able to vote, and the inadequate Internet access in the graves of Korean dissidents.

After reading recent entries at Steven Den Beste's USS Clueless describing Americans who hate America, this Churchill quotation springs to mind: "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government..."

But those folks Den Beste illustrates never got to the end of the sentence: "except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

In a way, they remind me of a college roommate's girlfriend who, after getting a Domino's pizza delivered that was cold, declared that Domino's always delivers cold pizza. This despite the fact that she'd had ordered dozens of pizzas from that chain in her lifetime and none of the others had been cold. And she wasn't satisfied that she could call one of many other pizza places in town; she had to admonish others for even considering dialing the Noid. The pizza company did something wrong, once. It's unforgivable and it obliterates everything good (previous deliveries of hot, tasty food to her front door at all hours for a reasonable price) the company has ever done.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

From USS Clueless, one of my favorites:

America was supposed to meditate on why they hate us. Unfortunately for them, we did consider it and came to the conclusion that they hate us because they're a bunch of incompetent losers who are shamed by our success.

Double duty holiday in Minnesota this year, as suggested by the Strib editorial staff:

(Minneapolis Star Tribune) Maybe the Minnesotans who still have the sad green "Wellstone!" signs in their yards need group support in order to take them down. We'll offer some: Let's make Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 20 -- a fitting occasion, given Paul and Sheila Wellstone's work for social justice -- Wellstone Sign Removal Day. At sunrise (or thereabouts), make a vow to uphold the causes they championed; say a prayer if you're so inclined; then, all together, one, two, three -- pull.

The reporters are KARE-11 TV are hard at work uncovering fraud and deception. And they’re going to tell us about it.

Later in the segment. After the break. Coming up next.

Oh for goodness sake, can we just get to it?

Paul Magers, after three teasers in the same news show, finally lets us know what the crack news team at KARE-11 has uncovered.

"You'll be surpised to learn" that the woman in the “Sunshine” anti-tobacco ad is (long drum roll) an actor! She doesn’t really have cancer. There was no word whether she’s really bald or whether the object in her arms was a real infant or another actor portraying one.

If any of you smokers had recently quit after seeing that ad, please resume smoking. You were tricked. Watch for a class action settlement; maybe you can get a coupon for a free pack of Camels.

Under the glare of bright camera lights a spokesperson from the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco said that it would have been too stressful for a real cancer victim to do the spot so an actor was hired.

The KARE-11 team is hard at work trying to determine if Britney likes Pepsi and whether the guy in the Viagra commercial might be faking it.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Caption for a Yahoo photo:

A female ice cleaner makes an appearance during a commercial break during a game between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres Saturday, Jan. 4, 2003. The Senators have added females to the ice cleaning staff in hopes of raising ticket sales for the team. The Senators, reportedly $360 million US in debt, missed their team payroll Wednesday after a deal to restructure the club's finances fell through.
You've come a long way, Senator.

Sometimes a writer has an idea for a catchy headline and just has to use it even if it's not on the mark.

Here's one:

Bond Movie Dies At South Korean Cinema. Die Another Day' Under Attack From Critics
So the Bond flick isn't doing well at the South Korean box office? Read down to one of the last paragraphs in the story.
Some South Korean students and civic activists are calling for a nationwide boycott -- but many other South Koreans are watching the movie.
The story mentions that one (yes, one) theater outside of Seoul has dropped the movie.

The editorial writers at the Minneapolis Star Tribune want maps of the new light rail system to show actual and proposed routes.

All the commotion over adding a fourth language -- Somali -- to the ticket vending machines on two new Twin Cities transit lines was a matter far less important than another yet unresolved design consideration: maps.
They'll be arguing over whether to used red dots or blue dashes on the maps for the "future" routes before this is all over.

Maps posted at the stations and on the buses and rail cars of the new Northwest and Hiawatha transit lines should show not only those two routes but future corridors as well. Only when riders begin to see that Northwest and Hiawatha are not ends but the beginning of a wider system will these important investments make sense.
I see and hear a commercial with John Lennon's "Imagine" playing softly in the background. Imagine all the routes, it's easy if you try, see the shiny tracks, all the train cars oh my, imagine all the riders, riding mass transit...

So mapmakers should include plenty of dotted lines showing future routes toward St. Paul, Eden Prairie, St. Cloud, Hastings, Apple Valley, White Bear Lake and so on. These match a long-range plan from the Metro Transitways Development Board, which has been studying various corridor options since 1992.
Ten years of study and we have a lot of dotted lines to show for it. Now if we just had a nickel for each dot we'd be able to purchase a fifth of a mile of the next leg.

At first glance, such maps might be taken as a provocation by an incoming administration cool to transit. Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty has stressed road expansion as the only way to tackle the traffic problem. He's likely to oppose any new transit funding, whether by state dedication or local sales tax. Quite candidly, Pawlenty's election, coupled with Minnesota's enormous fiscal challenge, has set back these transit projects by, perhaps, a decade.
Pawlenty's was sworn into office less than an hour ago as I write. How could he have already set this back ten years?

The first illustration came last week when Ramsey County ran its ambitious 30-year transit plan onto a siding, citing both fiscal and political hurdles. Other pullbacks will follow.
Someone should have told them to have more dotted lines in the plan.

But that doesn't mean these corridors should be entirely forgotten. The new governor deserves a crack at his roads-only attempt. But as time passes, voters will see more clearly that this metropolitan area, like others, can't solve its traffic problems only by encouraging more driving. Even with new roads, congestion will mount, distances will increase and family time will be squeezed. Eventually people here will demand the choices provided in comparable cities like Denver, Dallas, San Diego and others where starter rail lines are now being expanded. The idea isn't that transit and roads are competitors but that they can work in concert to make people's lives better.
Fine. You ride the train to work, to the grocery store and to you're kids' soccer practice. Those destinations are with in walking distance of rail and bus lines, right? In a metro area of over a million people, even a hundred rail lines aren't going to be convenient for many. I'll drive, thank you. Or I'll take the bus. When ridership patterns change, the bus company can change routes. Now about those tracks set in cement...

A map on a wall seems like a small detail. It's not. It symbolizes a region's resolve to keep its eye on the future, and to extend the benefits of mobility to everyone.
A map on the wall is a small detail. Billions of dollars for a several rail routes serving limited riders is only slightly larger. But just imagine all the dots.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

I went to the Centennial Lakes Office Max today. Or as I now like to say, Office Sux.

The store runs big ads in the Sunday papers. Most of the specials involve rebates. I got 50 CD-Rs today. If I send in two separate rebate forms (one to the manufacturer and one to Office Max) the final cost is about $2.00. Of course it's a pain to deal with the rebates so I guess that's how they make money - people just don't bother with them. But after a while, I'm sure, people just don't bother shopping at Office Sux. Hey, if the after-rebate price is $2 but I am really paying $9 because I don't feel like dealing with rebates then I might as well pay $9 at some store that I don't hate.

I needed a new CD holder. Well, I still need a CD holder. Between music CDs, PlayStation games, computer games, DVDs and software we have a million disks around the house. Office Sux has "buy one get one free" on CD holders. Each holds 32 discs so 64 is a good start to reducing the clutter around here. Okay, it doesn't involve a #@^&* rebate so I'll bite.

The add for the CD holder was in the Sunday paper. That's today if you're keeping score. The store opened at 10:00 AM today. At 11:15 AM today I arrived to find no CD holders in stock. Was the store crowded? Nope. Had there been a huge surge of business just before I walked in the store? Doubt it - there weren't many tire tracks in the light coating of snow in the parking lot.

The Office Sux manager was running around with a headset and walkie talkie. He appeared to have spent some quality time at Starbucks this morning. He was talking a mile a minute. As he walked by the front door he broadcast a message to the "associates" that a customer was approaching the front door. My God, do they really need to know that a customer is approaching? This isn't a jewelry store that's selling $25,000 diamonds and has two customers per day. Did anyone run up to greet that customer? Of course not. But he's just not managing if he wasn't bugging his employees with some useless piece of information.

I bought my CD-Rs, obtained a rebate form which I probably won't use and also got some canned air. $9 for air. What a culture we live in - we buy bottled water and compressed air. I took apart my computer desk and disconnected all cables, wires, cords, duct tape and chewing gum. I cleaned everything. I can't see the children or the dog because of the haze of dust in the house but at least the computer equipment is clean.

The PC box was especially dirty so my older son and I opened it up and took it outside for cleaning. Whoosh - a clowd of dust flew out. The filthy geese that live near our house are now choking on dust. Fair enough -- we have to walk through all their shit so they can just breath my dust.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Brock Yates thinks SUVs (really big ones, too) might save the planet.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

The gap between parody and real life just got a lot smaller.